I get to put the monsters centre stage once in a while, give them a good run, even make the heroes.
The characters I liked most in The Empire Strikes Back were the bounty hunters – not Boba Fett, that grandly over-rated amateur jetpack enthusiast, but the other guys: the lizard guy, the insect guy with his insect-headed droid, because if you were an insect guy, you’d do that, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t want that disconcerting standard model human mask staring at you while you travelled from bounty to bounty.
And there was a lizard guy in Battle Beyond The Stars, too, that bizarre Corman space opera that I still have all the feels for, no matter what. It’s full of weird and memorable characters, but for me it was always Cayman of the Lambda Zone, last of his species, and yet with a good fistful of decent lines and some self-deprecating humour thrown in. And he dies heroically which, along with looking like a bug or a lizard, has always done it for me.
So, “From childhood’s hour I have not been as others were”. Thank you Mr Poe. It’s true though: there never was someone to root for the monsters quicker than me. Now, as a writer, I get to put the monsters centre stage once in a while, give them a good run, even make the heroes. Read More »
Guns of the Dawn is set in a fantasy world: there are wizards, there are sentient non-human races, the names of the nations are all fictitious. At the same time, Guns is far more of an ‘echo history’ than Shadows of the Apt was . Specifically, the world and time of Emily Marshwic and her peers is a distorted mirror of Regency England, the start of the 19th century and the Napoleonic war. There are other strands in there – something of the English Civil War, something of the American War of Independence (for it is a war story) – but the Regency thread is by far the strongest. Read More »
I get the question “Why insects?” quite a lot. My stock response depends on how flippant I’m feeling at the time, but comes in two flavours. One is all about lofty literary ideals and exploring the human condition via the chitinous mirror that is insects. The other is “I just like insects.” Both are true1.
The lofty literary business is a thing, though. There is a genuine tradition, mostly a Central/Eastern European one, of using insects to examine human nature. Kafka’s Metamorphosis, of course, but also the Insect Play by the brothers Capek, and Viktor Pelevin’s Life of Insects. Even the ant section in T.H. White’s Sword in the Stone is worth a mention2.
These are all great works, but for me – the lover of insects – they share a problem. Their portrayals are all very negative. When Samsa wakes up as a cockroach3, it is both to the revulsion of his family and peers, and to considerable physical difficulty just getting around in a human world4, and the various insects in Pelevin and Capek are shown as human, but the worst of what humanity has to offer – selfish, rigid, murderous, warlike. They are an object lesson in where we’ve gone wrong as a species. Read More »